Canyon Ferry Lake was formed when Canyon Ferry Dam was built, blocking the Missouri River. Canyon Ferry Lake is very popular and is one of the heaviest utilized lakes in the state. The popularity is due to both its size and location, lying near Helena. The lake provides quality fishing for both warmwater and coldwater species.
The lake is quite large, even by Montana standards, measuring more than thirty-miles long and up to five miles wide. Since the lake lies just fifteen miles from Helena, the state capital, it receives heavy use during warm weather and on the weekends.
Canyon Ferry Lake is an excellent lake for fishing for rainbow trout. The lake is heavily stocked each year, and the large size of the lake combined with its fertility allow rainbows to grow large and quickly. In 2017 alone, the Montana FWP stocked more than 100,000 rainbow trout in the lake.
Due to these large fish, fly fishing for trout on Canyon Ferry Lake is popular. Sinking lines with large streamers are the general tools for fly fishing on this lake, although some care must be taken not to fish too deep, since trout are generally found above the fifteen foot mark.
Somewhat surprisingly, shore fishing for rainbows works well during the spring when the trout spawn near the shoreline. However, a boat, preferably with a motor, is generally needed to fish Canyon Ferry Lake. While inflatable kayaks, inflatable canoes and traditional canoes do work well for fishing, especially in the bays, the frequent high winds on the lake combined with its large size lends itself to primarily motor boat fishing.
Access to Canyon Ferry Lake is excellent. More than two-dozen designated access sites surround the lake. Due to the popularity of the lake and its close proximity to Helena, virtually all services are found on or near the lake, particularly along its western edge.
In addition to trout, fish species present in Canyon Ferry Lake include smallmouth bass, yellow perch, mountain whitefish, brown trout, brook trout, northern pike, panfish and walleye.
For an out-state angler in search of rainbow trout who wishes to break away from the popular rivers and try their luck on a lake, Canyon Ferry Lake is an excellent choice.